Reviews by Country
Call it a coming of age story if you want. The Peter Pan of ninjas can play all day and never take things too seriously. Until he has to. Call it a round-about revenge tale, or even a moral play. It is a little Shakespearean in its developments, and its style of humour (and a brilliant momentary break in the fourth wall) certainly does justice to the Bard. Or call it, perhaps most importantly, a serious Japanese contender for Guy … (read more)
The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazaki’s first return to the director’s chair in five years (since Ponyo) and — if his statements in interviews are taken at face value — his final feature film in a career spanning six decades in Japanese animation. If that is indeed the case, it is in many ways a fitting swansong: it’s a layered, nuanced film that tells a story that is definitively Japanese yet universal, rooted in history yet filled with flights … (read more)
Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell is, I think, a little like modern art – staring at it, you’re pretty sure you’re missing the point. Not that Sono’s work has necessarily been thematically deep to date, but it’s hard to look at a film about a filmmaker making a film without trying to read into it a little industry commenatary. The problem is, if you are, it’s difficult to work out what the hell Sono is trying to … (read more)
The last film I saw from Japanese powerhouse director Takeshi Kitano was his wonderful update of Zatoichi in 2003. Since then, he’s made a trio of more personal films that some have described as his ‘surrealist autobiographical’ trilogy: Takeshis’, Glory to the Filmmaker! and Achilles and the Tortoise. This film marks his return to more commercial territory, the yakuza film, in which scheming mob bosses and ambitious young thugs do battle on the street.
Kitano plays Otomo, a … (read more)
It might have been easy to descend into a creepy, stomach churning genre film when the main narrative device of the story is a cadaver, but somehow that’s exactly what Shinya Tsukamoto’s 2004 film Vital isn’t. Instead, and it sounds strange to say, it is something of a love story, a subtle, sedated ode to loss and the process of grieving that is at times both vaguely discomforting and quietly beautiful.
In yet another solid performance of minimalist effort, … (read more)